30. July 2021

Overcoming hurdles in your sport and your studies Franziska Schuster sprints for Germany and studies in Bonn

Franziska Schuster sprints for Germany and studies in Bonn

Franziska Schuster spends her days boning up on molecular biomedicine. In the evening, she ties her running shoes and sprints round an athletics track in Leverkusen. The 19-year-old from Bonn is a member of Germany’s U20 track and field squad for sprint and hurdles, meaning she has a lot on her plate with her sport and her studies. There is not much time left for anything else – so how does one handle the pressure in such a situation? An article from forsch 2021/01.          

Franziska Schuster
Franziska Schuster - Franziska Schuster is a member of the U20 national athletics squad in sprinting and hurdling. The hurdles she has to clear are 84 centimeters high. © V. Lannert
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We track down the student shortly before Easter. Had everything gone to plan, she should have flown to Croatia with the sprint team for several days of training camp. “When you can escape from your own four walls and train in a different environment, it gives you a completely new level of motivation,” Schuster says.

However, the coronavirus pandemic put paid to that plan. Instead, the team is staying back at base, the stadium of TSV Bayer 04 Leverkusen. The risk of having to quarantine if they get a positive test and not being allowed back into the country is simply too great.

Schuster is a second-semester student of molecular biomedicine – learning remotely, just like she did in her Abitur. In other words: no lecture halls, no canteen. “I did my Abitur under Covid restrictions, and my degree has been exactly the same story so far. I have simply never known it any different.” Getting to know fellow students is hard, she admits: whether it is a welcome day for first-semester students or a tutorial, virtually everything happens online. Nevertheless, Covid is helping her gain a bit of time. With lectures being held digitally, she can sleep in slightly later in the mornings.


Running a tight schedule

No wonder this makes her happy, because her daily schedule is jam-packed: after studying, she heads off to Manfort, an area of Leverkusen, for training. That is two hours of travel time almost every day. She pounds round TSV’s red athletics track until well into the evening, not getting back to Bonn until late. Schuster has been a member of the team there, which is affiliated with Bayer, since November 2020. The German championships are coming up in summer and fall, and she is also planning to join up with the Germany squad for the U20 European Championships in Tallinn and the postponed U20 World Championships in Nairobi – That is, unless the coronavirus puts a spanner in the works. Schuster is optimistic: “I haven’t thought about it yet. In my mind, the competitions are on.”

She realized at an early age that track and field was her thing. Hooked by the Bundesjugendspiele, Germany’s “Youth Games,” she began by entering multisport races at TUS Xanten. “However, things didn’t really get going until I was 15, when I won a silver medal in the individual events at the German Championships. I then got my call-up to the Germany U20 squad straight after that,” she recounts. “Running’s what I enjoy.”

What makes running and hurdles different from team sports? “You’re more responsible for your own performance,” she finds. “If you make a mistake, you can only be angry at yourself. It takes the pressure off, unlike with a team sport. I’m a big fan of all sports. Volleyball, for instance. But, unfortunately, I hardly have any time for any other kind of sport – and, anyway, there’s too much risk of injury.”


Recovered from injuries

Schuster has only recently recovered from an injury she sustained in the winter. “It was during some trials. The hurdles were going really well. But when it came to the 200 meters indoors, I suddenly felt something in my right thigh.” This meant no sprints, just stabilizing work and weights, until just before the German indoor championships. This meant that she only entered competitions to build her confidence back up. “After an injury, you fall into a little hole. I actually want to compete, am capable of competing, but then I just can’t. It’s depressing,” she says, describing how she feels. So this season is an important one for Schuster: she is studying with the help of a Deutschlandstipendium scholarship and is on the verge of switching to the German U23 squad. In other words, she needs to keep on putting in good performances in order to remain in the squad. There is only one way to deal with these pressures, setbacks and injuries: “You have to relax, stay calm and patient, and stick doggedly to your plan,” says Schuster.

Franziska Schuster
Franziska Schuster - Franziska Schuster is a member of the U20 national athletics squad in sprinting and hurdling. The hurdles she has to clear are 84 centimeters high. © V. Lannert

Most elite athletes are active at a time in their lives when they are also laying the foundations for their professional career. As a “partner university for high-performance sport,” the University of Bonn is helping to improve the balance between studying and elite sport together with its partners. Its offering includes: personalized study advice; more flexible curricula; compensation for disadvantages in examinations; granting students semesters on leave, e.g. to allow them to prepare for important championships; free use of University Sports grounds; and dedicated funding opportunities as part of the Deutschlandstipendium scholarship. At least 20 elite sportsmen and -women are currently studying in Bonn. More Information.

Email: spitzensport@uni-bonn.de

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